Tory MP Lee Anderson has found himself at the centre of controversy again with his latest remarks about food bank use.
Mr Anderson – voted Conservative MPs’ favourite backbencher – has frequently questioned how many people have genuine need of such support.
To illustrate his point, this week he tweeted a picture of a member of his staff with details of her earnings and outgoings. The Ashfield MP claimed she was an example of someone earning less than £30,000 but did not need to use a food bank.
But the move was heavily criticised, and Mr Anderson was accused of “a form of bullying” by Labour MP Dawn Butler, who said she had reported him to the Commons authorities.
It isn’t the first time his comments have made headlines – below we look back at some of the Red Wall MP’s previous remarks.
People who use food banks ‘cannot cook properly’
Mr Anderson’s feelings on food banks first made headlines last May, when he invited fellow MPs to visit a food bank in his constituency to witness a “brilliant scheme” – whereby those in receipt of food parcels are forced to “register for a budgeting and cooking course”.
“We show them how to cook cheap and nutritious meals on a budget – we can make a meal for about 30p a day – and this is cooking from scratch,” said the Nottinghamshire MP. “I think you’ll see first-hand there’s not this massive use for food banks in this country.
“We’ve got generation after generation who cannot cook properly, they can’t cook a meal from scratch, they cannot budget.”
Tory MP claims there is no ‘massive use’ for food banks in UK
According to the Trussell Trust, the largest network of food bank providers in the UK, the main drivers of food bank use are problems with the benefits system, challenging life experiences, ill-health, or lack of informal or formal support.
Its head of policy, Sumi Rabindrakumar, told The Independent at the time: “Food bank need in the UK is about lack of income, not food. Cooking from scratch won’t help families keep the lights on or put food on the table, if they don’t have enough money in their pockets.”
Nurses using food banks have ‘something wrong with their finances’
The Tory MP has continued to cast doubts over the necessity of food banks for many users – despite soaring demand – insisting that striking nurses did not need handouts.
“Anybody earning 30-odd grand a year – which most nurses are – using food banks, then they’ve got something wrong with their own finances,” he told Times Radio in December.
Tory MP claims nurses using food banks have ‘something wrong with their own finances’
Royal College of Nursing general-secretary Pat Cullen responded that “to criticise anybody using a food bank is disgusting, heartless and dangerously out of touch”, adding that she has “met nursing staff from every corner of the nation – and their fear and fright about not being able to meet their bills is palpable”.
Challenging Brexit critic to a fight
Mr Anderson also raised eyebrows last year when he described an anti-Brexit protester as “a parasite”.
In a verbal altercation with activist Steve Bray – who in return brands him “30p Lee, in a nod to the MP’s claims about cooking and budgeting – Mr Anderson said: “You’re nothing but a parasite. We’ve established that. You’re a scrounger. Why are you here dressed like a tramp?”
Mr Bray told The Independent after the encounter: “Lee Anderson is very derogatory about those less fortunate in life, the fact he tries to imply I am a tramp and on benefits is insulting those people that actually are.”
This week, the Conservative MP attempted to settle his feud with the “Stop Brexit” man in the boxing ring – after briefly stealing his “Not My Brexit” hat during a row outside parliament last week and repeating his “parasite” slur.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph on Thursday, Mr Anderson said: “He is a nuisance. And I’ve got a challenge for him: Meet me in the boxing ring. Let’s do three rounds.
“If I win, he never protests out there again. And if he wins, I’ll go and protest with him.”
Mr Bray told the paper he would consider it, saying: “I will think about it. I might have to get into a bit of shape first.”
‘Make nuisance tenants live in tents and pick potatoes’
Tory MP candidate Lee Anderson says ‘nuisance tenants’ should be forced to live in fields and pick potatoes at 6am every morning
Before even entering the House of Commons, Mr Anderson sparked anger by posting a video on Facebook arguing during his election campaign that “nuisance tenants” should be forced to live in tents and pick potatoes.
Speaking directly to the camera, he said: “My plan would be … let’s have them in a tent in the middle of a field, six o’clock every morning let’s have them up, let’s have them in the field picking potatoes or any current seasonal vegetables, back in the tent, cold shower, lights out, six o’clock, same again the next day. That would be my solution.”
Rival parties compared the idea to “forced labour camps,” accusing Mr Anderson of “entrenching division”.
‘Make out you know who I am’
Tory MP candidate caught getting friend to pose as anti-Labour swing voter
In another highlight from the 2019 general election, Mr Anderson forgot he was wearing a microphone as he got one of his friends to pose as an anti-Labour swing voter, in a bid to impress a journalist with the fake encounter.
“Make out you know who I am… you know I’m the candidate, but not a friend, alright?” Mr Anderson was recorded telling his friend minutes before bringing a journalist to his door.
Once they arrived, the supposed swing voter then told the Tory candidate: “There’s no way Labour are ever going to get my vote again”, before heartily endorsing Mr Anderson’s ‘tenants in tents’ policy.